Stroll across the intersection of Ruby and Colorado and you’ll see a sight that grows more common every day: a black, oil-like bubble hanging from a telephone pole, frozen mid-drip.
As part of a $300,000 initiative to keep an eye on College Hill, Pullman police recently installed cameras on Adams Mall. The proposal, titled the “Smart Policing Initiative,” was approved by the Pullman City Council in September of 2011.
These cameras bode well for student safety; late-night violence and criminality would be curbed under this initiative. But as this program progresses and more cameras are used to monitor WSU, troubles could arise as freedoms too, are curbed.
In the short term, this appears to be an excellent idea. The Pullman Police Department’s annual report indicated that over 400 disputes and disturbances occurred on College Hill in 2010; this number can only be expected to rise as the student population increases. More cameras would undoubtedly allow police to better identify perpetrators and curb violence.
According to the most recent revisions to the Police Department’s policies, the Adams Mall cameras, along with any future cameras, is not meant to be used for monitoring day-to-day, lawful activity. Normally, the cameras would only be used to review old footage for evidentiary purposes.
This strategy has worked well for other colleges. According to Brown University’s community newspaper, most students haven’t noticed the increased number of cameras on their campus. Furthermore, Sheldon Schenck of The Blue Banner found that many students at University of North Carolina at Asheville, welcome the use of cameras to combat minor crimes.
However, there is a movement to allow students in the WSU School of Criminal Justice to watch live feeds from the cameras on weekends, starting at midnight. While the students would have undergone background checks and signed confidentiality agreements, the potential ramifications of this policy are troubling.
Expansion is in our nature. If one camera can lower crime rates, five may do even better. And if a student can further his or her education by monitoring these cameras, that’s yet another benefit of this program.
In a few years, it is possible that an increase in student viewing hours could be proposed.
Over time, further encroachments upon the original idea of these cameras could be replicated on a larger scale. One could imagine that, before too long, the cameras could be monitored 24/7, opening up an opportunity for someone to abuse the system.
As long as those in charge of the program keep a close eye on the expansion of this initiative, any potential problems can be identified and mitigated.
Campus safety is definitely a cause to champion. But if the reverberations of this policy are not carefully controlled, this program could become a cause for concern.
-Stephen Meylor is a freshman undecided major from Broomfield, Colo. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.